Physical activity and proper diet and nutrition can help people age 50 and older maintain their physical health. But there are also ways aging men and women can preserve brain health in an effort to prevent or delay the cognitive decline that affects millions of seniors across the globe.
It's easy to overlook the importance of keeping the brain healthy. However, a decline in brain function can result in poor concentration, memory loss and a host of other issues. Sometimes, by the time symptoms present themselves, it may be too late to reverse any damage.
Research suggests that a combination of nutrition and mental, social and physical activities may have a greater impact with regard to maintaining and improving brain health than any single activity. Harvard Medical School also states that volunteering, caring for others and pursuing hobbies may benefit the brains of older adults.
A study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry found participants who reported higher levels of purpose in life exhibited superior cognitive function despite the accumulation of abnormal protein depositions (amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles) in the brain, a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease. Having a purpose also may help those who do not have Alzheimer's disease.
In addition to the suggestions mentioned above, those who want to boost brain health can consider these strategies.
• Start exercising the brain early on. A study published in 2012 in the British Medical Journal examined cognitive function in people ages 45 to 70. Researchers found evidence of cognitive decline in the 45-year-old participants as well as the older participants. It's never too early to put a brain health plan into motion.
• Read more books. Reading can open individuals up to new vocabulary and scenarios that promote a stronger brain and recall ability. Enrolling in an education course at a local college, community center or online also may be beneficial.
• Hit the gym. Several studies suggest an association between physical activity and reduced risk of cognitive decline. This could be because exercise elevates heart rate, which pumps more blood to the brain and body.
• Supplement with DHA. DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid that is dominant in the brain. Adhere to a Mediterranean diet, which is generally high in natural sources of omega-3, including fish and mono-unsaturated fats from olives, olive oil, nuts and seeds. Supplements also may help, but individuals should consult with their doctors about which products to take.
• Challenge the mind. Men and women can engage in challenging activities that stray from their routines. Puzzles, strategic games, jigsaw puzzles, or difficult hobbies can benefit the brain.
• Keep a close-knit group of friends. Regular conversation and social interaction is a key component of any brain health wellness plan.
Slowing cognitive decline and promoting greater brain health should be a priority for adults of all ages.